Protesters decry pharmacy policy

Target’s policy to let pharmacists refuse to provide the morning-after pill is at issue.

Mark Remme

A Planned Parenthood protest drew approximately 80 people Thursday outside the downtown Target store on Nicollet Mall.

The protesters oppose Target’s company policy that allows pharmacists to refuse assistance to customers, especially concerning birth control and emergency contraception.

“I’m disappointed in Target for refusing to fill prescriptions,” said K.C. Fischer, a senior at Augsburg College majoring in women’s studies.

“If people were in pain, they wouldn’t deny them pain pills,” she said.

Target’s policy states any pharmacist may refuse the distribution of any prescription if he or she is not comfortable distributing it.

Marta Coursey, director of marketing communications for Planned Parenthood, said she hopes the protest will create a change in Target’s policies.

“It’s not right to refuse and refer,” Coursey said. “We want fair and equitable service.”

Target District Pharmacy Manager Ann Byre said incidents where pharmacists refuse to distribute drugs are rare.

“It’s very unfortunate that Planned Parenthood had to protest in this negative way,” Byre said. “We feel pharmacists have the right to make the choice up front.”

Target is not planning to change its policy, she said.

Minnesota’s pharmacy code of conduct does not have a conscience clause, said Cody Wiberg, executive director of the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy.

The conscience clause allows a pharmacist who isn’t comfortable issuing a particular drug to not do so as long as the customer has practical access to the drug elsewhere.

“That’s a slippery slope,” said Don Uden, a professor in the University’s College of Pharmacy. “Personal beliefs can override professional obligations.”

Although Minnesota doesn’t have a conscience clause, Wiberg said, pharmacists are able to refuse drug distribution if it is considered assisting or submitting to an abortion.

David Golden, director of marketing at Boynton Health Service, said Boynton has a contract with the Target pharmacy on New Brighton Boulevard to distribute contraception to students if Boynton is closed.

When open, Boynton distributes different types of contraception, including emergency contraception, he said.

Golden said Boynton has offered emergency contraception for the 16 years he has been there, and there has been no protest.

According to the 2004 Boynton Student Health Assessment Survey, 5.1 percent of the 1,978 females surveyed had taken an emergency contraception pill within the previous 12 months.

Emergency contraception is effective only when used 48 hours to 72 hours after intercourse. The sooner it is used, the more effective it is.